Title: Brave New Girl
Author: Louisa Luna
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 208
Trigger Warning(s): Bullying, Homophobia, Sexual Assault
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Raw, tender, and refreshingly un-P.C., Brave New Girl is one of the realest coming-of-age stories I’ve read in a long time. The writing style reminded me of books like The Catcher in the Rye (which it directly references) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Full of angst and authenticity, it tells the story of Doreen, an alienated fourteen-year-old girl with a mean older sister and unsupportive parents. Her brother was kicked out of their home years ago and hasn’t been seen since.
Even though she barely remembers him, Doreen feels a connection with him and wants to get in touch with him. She spends most of her time goofing off and smoking cigarettes with her nerdy, unpopular best friend Ted. She’s angry at her family and angry at the world and finds comfort in the music of The Pixies. Then her sister Tracey’s boyfriend Matthew, a man in his 20’s, grooms and rapes Doreen. She has complicated feelings about the assault and feels like she invited it.
I was literally shaking when she finally told her parents, and I was so glad that her dad believed her and punched Matthew in his stupid fucking face. Throughout the book I was filled with dread because Matthew was obviously grooming her for abuse, and she was too young and naive to recognize that that was what he was doing.
Doreen isn’t the most likable character, and some readers might tire of her constant angst and I’m-not-like-other-girls attitude. But she seemed real to me, and I felt for her (not just because of what she’d gone through with Matthew) even though I’d never want to hang out with her and listen to her talk about how much she hated everything and everyone.
You know, like Holden Caufield, who feels like a real teenager even though sometimes you want to strangle him and tell him to take his attitude elsewhere. And sure, Doreen only sees the negative in everything but that’s a teenager for you. In my opinion this book expertly captured what it’s like to be an adolescent, being acutely aware of your own otherness and unsure of your place in the world.
I also liked her platonic relationship with Ted (even though treated him like shit at times and I would have told her to take her bad attitude and shove it,) which you don’t see much in fiction with a guy and a girl unless one of them is gay. The way they waste time together and help each other deal with their dysfunctional family lives (as well as their mutual outcast status) makes you understand why they hang out together even though they sometimes don’t get along. So, that’s Brave New Girl.
If you love The Perks of Being a Wallflower (like I do,) I think you’ll probably enjoy this as well. They were both published by MTV books around the same time frame. I don’t know anything about the author but this novel felt so real to me I wondered if it was at least somewhat autobiographical. It seemed like she was thoroughly invested in this character and she got it. And that’s probably one of the biggest compliments you can give a work of fiction.
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